MINING engineering students of the country’s premier university have joined the snowballing call for transparency and full disclosure in the mining audit conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which ordered the shutdown or suspension of 28 mining operations across the country.
The DENR order, issued by Secretary Regina Paz Lopez last February 2, has since been superseded by a resolution issued by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), calling for “a multi-stakeholder review” of the affected mine sites.
In a statement, the University of the Philippines Mining Engineering Society (UP MINERS) said Lopez’s suspension and closure orders “implies unemployment of new graduates of Mining Engineering, Geology, Metallurgical Engineering and other affected fields.”
“We, the University of the Philippines Mining Engineering Society (UP MINERS), reiterate our stance and advocacies toward responsible mining and call for transparency in the process of the mining audit done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” the organization said.
“For as long as the transparency of the mining audit remains inaccessible, as future engineers, we shall keep invoking our right to access detailed information regarding the said mining audit in order for us to know what needs to be improved in the industry and to aid in the advancement of the profession towards environmental protection so as to avoid the suspension of more mining companies compromising jobs and Filipino families,” the UP MINERS said.
“As students of the University of the Philippines, we uphold honor, excellence, and the values of responsible mining. We thus challenge the government to do the same,” it added.
The UP MINERS, whose primary goal is to advance the Mining Engineering profession and help ensure responsible mining, questioned the credibility of the audit done by Lopez on the 28 affected mine sites.
“For the DENR to ban the Mines and Geosciences Bureau during the [press]conference where the mine suspensions list was released places the integrity of the department and credibility of the audit in jeopardy,” the UP MINERS said.
Even mine site with an international ISO-14001 certification that was acquired after over almost a year of audit and “which the [DENR] Secretary initially deemed sufficient to demonstrate a company’s high standards,” have not passed the audit done by Lopez’s team that consisted mostly of non-experts, including anti-mining representatives, the organization pointed out.
The UP Miners questioned how an audit done by Lopez’s team was eventually preferred to an audit conducted based on international standards.
“The action by the DENR has instigated issues of employment panic and dilemma to future engineers and scientists of the industry, aside from the questionable mining audit itself,” the organization said.
“It defeats the purpose of studying the technicalities and philosophies of the field and the industry when the industry itself is without a defined standard acceptable to the government.”
The association said placing in jeopardy the future of new graduates and students of Mining Engineering, Geology, Metallurgical Engineering and other affected fields, along with the plight of some 1.2 million people in the affected mine sites, is a “contradiction to the Secretary’s philosophy of anti-suffering.
According to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), Lopez “is slowly killing an industry that has faithfully paid billions in taxes and fees annually.”
The mining industry paid P10.1 billion in tax revenues to the government in 2015. The mining operations ordered closed down or suspended account for 46 percent or P4.6 billion of these tax revenues, the COMP said.